Old-Fashioned Gingerbread.

The world/internet has some disagreement about what “gingerbread” is…is it a house? A runaway man? Or is it a dense cake full of warm spices, preferably topped with large dollops of whipped cream? I vote #3.

I love this gingerbread cake and all its deep, rich molasses-brown color and ginger-spicy flavors. The texture is my favorite part – it’s a bit like pound cake in its density, but kind of rustic, with a heft to the crumb that you don’t find in a more light-and-fluffy cake. You could eat it with a bowl of soup and it would be more than a meal, is what I’m saying.

mixing gingerbread batter

You mix up melted shortening and sugar, then stir in molasses for a thick, glossy beginning. Then you add the dry ingredients alternately with hot water (yep, just pantry ingredients in this baby!) and the whole thing turns kind of lumpy and the color is a little unattractive:

gingerbread batter

But don’t worry! Soon your gingerbread will be dark and beautiful again (so much so that your kids might insist it’s become chocolate cake even if they helped make it):

freshly baked gingerbreadMaybe one day I’ll remember to take pictures before I start hacking away at things? Maybe?

Dense, moist, rich, cozy, please-don’t-forget-the-whipped-cream gingerbread. I love it as a holiday treat, but it’s good all fall and winter if you need to warm up your house with the oven and some spicy smells! (See also: gingersnaps.)

a bite of old-fashioned gingerbread with whipped cream

Shortly after I took the gingerbread pictures, my girls and I inhaled the model piece. This took about 2 minutes, which isn’t necessarily good behavior for people who had basically just finished breakfast. Therefore, I recommend that you just go ahead and serve it for breakfast in the first place! Enjoy – and Merry Christmas, friends!

gingerbread aftermath


Old-Fashioned Gingerbread.

  • Author: Bet Denton
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cake


  • 1 cup shortening, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups hot water
  • whipped cream, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the sugar and melted shortening vigorously together with a whisk (or you can use a mixer). Whisk in the molasses.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt, and add to the molasses mixture alternately with the hot water, stirring very gently in between additions with a spoon or spatula. Do not overmix! The batter will be a little lumpy.
  3. Pour it into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with generous dollops of whipped cream!


This recipe came to my family from the Pittsburgh Press, many many moons ago.

You can make a half recipe in an 8×8 pan, and it bakes for about the same amount of time!

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  1. I associate this bread with so. many. fond memories of friendship. I think you first made this for me in college, and we ate obscenely large hunks at a time, and I knew already that you were a gifted baker (and cook!). And then I just continued to reap the benefits of your kitchen skills for the rest of my education…still reaping, as a matter of fact!! 🙂

  2. Can this be a breakfast food? Cause YUM!!!

    1. Yes yes yes!! ????

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